Frequently asked questions
What does the Assembleia da República do in the area of European affairs?
Who has responsibility for European affairs in the Assembleia da República?
What does political oversight of the Government mean in practice?
How does participation by the Assembleia da República in the EU decision-making process work in practice?
What is the parliamentary scrutiny process?
What is the principle of subsidiarity?
How is the process of parliamentary scrutiny carried out?
Where can I see the results of this parliamentary scrutiny process?
1. What does the Assembleia da República do in the area of European affairs?
Under the Constitution and Law no. 43/2006 of 25 August 2006, as amended by Law no. 21/2012 of 17 May 2012, Law no.º 18/2018 of 2 May 2018 and Law no. 64/2020 of 2 November 2020 – Monitoring, assessment and pronouncement by the Assembleia da República within the scope of the process of constructing the European Union – the Assembleia da República acts essentially at three levels as regards European affairs: it exercises political supervision of the Government; it participates in the European decision-making process by examining European initiatives and pronouncing itself on them (scrutiny process); and it participates in interparliamentary meetings (interparliamentary cooperation) involving the national parliaments of the 27 Member States and the European Parliament.
2. Who has responsibility for European affairs in the Assembleia da República ?
The President of the Assembleia da República, as the representative of the Portuguese Parliament at the Conference of Speakers of the EU Parliaments, is responsible for sending the opinions of the Assembleia da República to the European institutions.
The European Affairs Committee takes and plays a central role in policy monitoring and also in the pronouncement on European initiatives, in which the competent parliamentary committees for the matter in question also participate.
3. What does political oversight of the Government mean in practice?
For the exercise of political supervision, the law gives parliamentarians the possibility to request from the Government any available national or European documentation relating to the exercise of their powers, as well as to propose debates in the presence of members of the Government at committee meetings in the weeks following the date of meetings of the Council of the European Union in its various configurations, and to raise the debate on all issues and positions under discussion within the European institutions, which involve matters falling within their competence. It should also be mentioned that there are several plenary debates about European affairs, with the participation of the Government, namely a debate with the participation of the Prime Minister to be held before each European Council; a debate at the beginning of each Presidency of the Council of the European Union (one each semester); an annual debate on Portugal's participation in permanent structured cooperation; a debate on the State of the Union; and, finally, a debate on the various instruments for the economic governance of the European Union that are included in the European Semester.
In particular, the European Affairs Committee holds the debate with the member of Government responsible for European affairs, to be held after each European Council, in order to assess its conclusions, holds hearings of persons nominated or appointed by the Government to posts in the European Union, and examines each year the Report on Portugal's Participation in the EU, which is prepared and submitted by the Government, requesting input from all the standing committees.
4. How does participation by the Assembleia da República in the EU decision-making process work in practice?
Participation in the European decision-making process essentially happens at three levels: firstly, the European Affairs Committee and the parliamentary committees with responsibility for the matter in question participate in the scrutiny of European initiatives on a regular basis; secondly, an annual public hearing is held on the Work Programme of the European Commission, which is attended by Members of the Legislative Assemblies of the Autonomous Regions, Portuguese MEPs, the representative of the European Commission in Lisbon and a Member of the Portuguese Government; and thirdly, parliamentarians participate in interparliamentary meetings organised by the European Parliament, national parliaments and COSAC (Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union).
5. What is the parliamentary scrutiny process?
This is the name given to the process of monitoring, assessment and pronouncement by the European Affairs Committee and the standing parliamentary committees of the initiatives – both legislative and non-legislative – referred to them by the European institutions.
In 2006, under the so-called "Barroso Initiative", the European Commission initiated a political dialogue with national parliaments, according to which it undertook to refer all the initiatives presented by the Commission on a daily basis, inviting national parliaments to examine these documents and to present their opinions on the substance of the initiative and the proposed solutions.
With the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the practice of sending European initiatives to national parliaments was enshrined and extended to the other European institutions (the Council and the European Parliament). At the same time, the Treaty provided for the possibility of national parliaments being directly involved in the European decision-making process through the scrutiny of the principle of subsidiarity, under Protocol 2 to the Treaty of Lisbon.
Therefore, the Portuguese Parliament may undertake the scrutiny of each European initiative, that is, pronounce itself on the substance of the initiative and on compliance with the principle of subsidiarity and send its opinion to the European institutions (European Commission, Council and European Parliament), and to the Government for information.
6. What is the principle of subsidiarity?
The legal construction of the European Union (EU) is founded on the principle of attribution, which establishes that the EU only has the powers attributed to it by Member States through the Treaties. It cannot act outside those powers, leaving it to Member States to act. Among the various powers attributed to the Union, some have been attributed on an exclusive basis, meaning that only the EU can regulate on such matters (for example: customs union, monetary policy in the countries that use the euro, the common commercial policy, etc.) and others have been partially attributed: the so-called shared competences (e.g., the internal market, environment, transport, energy, agriculture and fisheries, area of freedom, security and justice, etc.). In these cases, both the EU and the Member States may regulate matters that fall into this category. The principle of subsidiarity arises in the context of these shared competences as a consequence of the principle of attribution. Therefore, the Treaty states that "in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Union shall act only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved at Union level". According to the Treaties, the Assembleia da República (and other national parliaments) are responsible for checking whether, for a certain proposed legislative act which falls within the scope of the shared competences, the best level of decision is that of the Union or whether, instead, the Member States themselves should regulate that matter.
7. How is the process of parliamentary scrutiny carried out?
For further information on the process of parliamentary scrutiny of European initiatives at the Assembleia da República, click here.
8. Where can I see the results of this parliamentary scrutiny process?
By consulting IPEX where, for each European initiative, you can access the result of the monitoring carried out by each national parliament, at http://www.ipex.eu/.
The Assembleia da República has developed a portal that provides access to the entire scrutiny process of European initiatives by the Assembleia da República, the names of the parliamentarians acting as rapporteurs and parliamentarians responsible for drawing up opinions, the work of the committees, and the search for scrutiny procedures in progress and those that have been completed.
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